This weekend, the last in May 2014, rippon-boswell held their major spring sale.
Apparently RK was not the only one who was unimpressed, as the results we have been able to determine show overall lower prices, many much lower than the estimates.
From examining the results on a list someone who attended the sale compiled we can only guess what has really happened. The list shows most lots sold at 10-30 percent under their estimated prices.
If so this would be the first time this has happened at rippon-boswell as far as we can remember.
But more questionable and unusual is the auctioneer, who usually announces unsold, ie. passed, lots, only did so only several times.
That would mean a sale percentage, by lot, of well over 90 percent. This is even more unbelievable, and surely unless detlef maltzahn comes clean and truthfully tells what did and what did not actually sell he will go down in history as one of rugDUMBs greatest story-tellers.
But there is another explanation that we have heard from an attendee, and one that makes more sense than maltzahn selling pieces at prices so far below his estimates.
Supposedly, and we are on the trail to get more confirmation, many of these sales were announced to be conditional depending upon the acceptance of the consignor.
If this is the case then RK can only think maltzahn completely desperate and saw no other way to salvage his auction.
However if that is what he did, it cannot help but destroy some more of his credibility; after all who wants to bid on an item, have the auctioneers hammer come down, think you won it, only then to be told the sale is conditional.
As far as we are concerned, if this is really what happened, maltzahn is proving himself to be more of a turko-idiot than we formerly believed.
Undoubtedly the high point of an otherwise undistinguished sale was several rare Turkmen pieces scattered among the decidedly lackluster 243 lots.
While they were not the greatest rarities, most beautiful or earliest of their types, they were good enough considering todays marketplace both values old Turkmen weavings and recognizes they are perhaps the hardest to find.
The first and surely in our opinion the most overpriced and over-rated was this fragment of what auctioneer and rippon-boswell owner detlef maltzahn called a Bokhara saf.
It sold for a whopping 100,000 euro plus commission making it the most expensive Turkmen fragment we have ever seen.
Dating it mid-19th century is correct, and to maltzahns credit he did mention the fact fragments of a much earlier and far superior saf had appeared on the market a decade or so ago at separate sotheby and Christie London rug sales.
However, he left unsaid a more significant part of this safs story originally there were three other fragments of this saf, all formerly belonging to a dealer from Kabul, who at one time had a large hunk.
It was he who cut it up and supposedly this, the last remaining piece, was inherited on his demise by his son, and then consigned to this auction.
Regardless of the veracity of this history, the saf fragment is ridiculously overpriced and when it is compared to the fragments sold in London that fact shines through like a laser.
The next of the Turkmen pieces pertinent for comment is the Bailey Tekke animal tree asmalyk.
When RK first met George Bailey he was a carpet collector living on the upper east side of New York. This was in the mid-1970s.
Bailey did not know very much but, like many hajji-baba-ites, he talked a good game.
RK can well remember visiting his apartment and seeing both the asmalyk and the khalyk. We never thought much of the asmalyk, and still dont, but we did like the khalyk.
In fact sometime before 1980, probably in 1978 or so, we offered Bailey 3,500 dollars for it, which was at the time a very handsome price.
He immediately accepted, we shook hands and RK thought the deal was finalized. However, even before we left his living room Bailey started getting cold feet and stammered Well, well, Ill have to discuss this with my wife, so why dont you call me tomorrow.
Of course we knew that was it for the deal, and right we were. By the way that was the last time we bothered to visit.
Anyway, the Bailey askalyk is late and not very pretty. We dont like it, and although the price it made, 60,000 euro plus commission, seems high, frankly it isnt.
Actually a great Tekke animal tree asmalyk sells for a multiple of that price, so in perspective 60K is reasonable for a lesser example.
Well, reasonable for a collector who either cant afford a better, older, more beautiful and evocative one, or one who just plain cant see the difference.
The abrashed section in the lower quarter of the field is something we find particularly unattractive and disconcerting.
There are other shortcomings as well, but we've already said enough and enumerating them further is boring, so lets move on.
This Tekke khalyk is a rare bird, we know of no other one like it. It is not very old, wed put it circa 1825, and it really has no outstanding features other than its rarity.
But its a most eminently likeable weaving, thats why we wanted to buy it from Bailey and why we still do appreciate it.
The 25,000 euro plus commission price it made under the hammer is a very just and fair one.
The buyer should be happy, and so should the consignor.
This Saryk engsi is, like almost every other older one we have ever seen, a type of Turkmen we never have appreciated on any level.
It sold for 12,000 euro plus commission against a 10,000 euro estimate. This price was, along with that bid for several other Turkmen weavings, one of the few to sail above estimate.
Why doesn't RK like or appreciate these Saryk engi?
Mainly because they are cookie-cutter weavings; there are so many of them, and they are so alike, we can only believe they were produced in workshops and consequently have nothing to really do with historic Turkmen weaving culture.
Also none of them appear to have been made prior to the early 19th century.
All that rightfully said, we have seen one that breaks the mold and stands out to show what a really old pre-1800 and genuine Saryk engsi looks like.
That example was found in Florida by a vacationing New York area rug dealer/picker and sold for pennies on his return to ronnie newman.
This is back in the later part of the 70s when we were still talking to NAMBLA wannabe member mr. newman.
We saw the engsi at his house soon after he got it and when we expressed interest in buying he promised If I sell it I will offer it to you.
Some promise that was, as about 3 months later while visiting with dennis the cheat and thief dodds we saw it again dodds had gotten it from newman.
We tried to get dodds to sell it to us but he insisted it was not for sale.
A few months later dr jon thompson showed it to us in London at his former digs on Great Percy St. We surprised him when not only did we tell him we knew it but we recounting where it had come from.
End of story, as we have no idea if thompson still has it or sold it as he has done with so much of his collection.
But make no mistake, thompson still has a private collection, and is still selling other pieces to those who gain entrance to his home.
This main carpet is a strange duck and since we did not attend the viewing we had no chance to study its materials, dyes and structure.
But from the pictures we can make some comments.
The first is the lack of expertise detlef maltzahn consistently demonstrates when he tries to play Turkmen weaving expert.
Certainly woven before 1800 and possibly significantly earlier, this impressive Karadashli main carpet is likely to be one of the oldest examples of its group.
Glad maltzahn is certain because we, as would anyone who really knows, cant be certain this MC is Karadashli in the first place, or it was certainly woven prior to 1800.
We would date the rug first quarter of the 19th based on several factors, like the number and rather small size of the major gol, and the somewhat stiff and droll execution of the border, particularly on the sides.
We also believe the fact the weaver butted the halved minor gol right up against the side border shows a 19th rather than an 18th century stylistic aesthetic.
And, again here, an unsightly abrash in the lower part of the field does little to convince us of great age. Nor does this abrash do anything to improve its beauty quotient.
Plus, calling this rug Karadashli is in our opinion nothing but a very questionable guess, as this MC does not actually demonstrate what we believe is the key sign of this group the presence of two, light and dark, shades of intense and brilliant indigo blue.
Claiming what group made any historic Turkmen rug is nothing but guess work, particularly when hanging a fairly newly minted name like Karadashli on a rug based on its gol shape.
If anything is clear about Turkmen rug identification it is that many groups used many different gol.
And while the Karadashli gol, better known as a diamond gol, is rarely seen, all the available evidence shows no single group claimed it as their own.
Calling this rug unidentified eagle-group would have been far more supportable, as that name refers to a growing group of weavings made by number unknown groups that share certain but surely not all features.
On any level, we dont much to like this MC, and lets leave it at that.
In closing, we will be watching to see maltzahns official results to get a better idea of what really happened.
Did the majority of lot actually change hands at 20-30% below their estimates?
And how many owners of lots sold as conditional sales agreed?
We need to reiterate: If that was in fact maltzahns tactic then he has now turned his saleroom and auction into a place where buyers might/will have to wait for a consignor to decide if their bid will actually be a winning one.
In any event, our opinion is maltzhan's spring fling stinks.